IT WAS a quiet weekend on the local rugby scene with most interest focussed on the start of the Heineken Cup where champions Leinster stuttered to an unconvincing 9-6 home win over Exeter at the RDS.
In the only Leinster League action North Kildare edged past visitors Edenderry on an 18-11 scoreline to move up to third place in Division 2B but heavy defeats for Clane and Athy means they are both entrenched in relegation battles in their Divisions, 2A and 2B respectively.
James Mahon, who was returning from injury after being out since last season, was the North Kildare hero as he came on as a replacement in the centre to score the winning try under the posts four minutes from the end of what was an evenly contested game.
Edenderry had led 8-0 at the break before centre Sean Brady dragged the hosts back into the game with a try early in the second half and then full back Joe Gerry equalised soon afterwards with a penalty goal.
Gerry was forced to level affairs with another penalty goal a little while later before Mahon’s late heroics delivered the game winner that the full back converted.
Next week North Kildare travel to the Iveagh Grounds in Crumlin to tackle Guinness who had an impressive 25-9 victory in Athy while Edenderry are at home to bottom club Swords.
The south Kildare club now lies second last and will be off this week as they attempt to regather before they resume their campaign in November.
Clane were hammered 54-10 in Kilkenny and are level at the bottom with New Ross whom they welcome to Ballinagappa Road for a crucial relegation clash next Sunday.
Action resumes in Division 1A after the teams got a week off; Cill Dara will strive to move away from the basement area when they visit Westmanstown to face struggling bottom club Garda while second placed Newbridge welcome Wanderers to Rosetown as they attempt to chase down leaders Tullamore.
The visit of Wanderers is noteworthy in that the Dublin 4 side were favourites for the initial All Ireland League in 1989-90, long before Newbridge Rugby Club was founded in 1996 – and back then the mere mention of such a game as next Saturday’s encounter would have resulted in you being dragged away screaming by the men in white coats!
Leinster executed poorly throughout the commencement of the defence of their European crown before a sell-out 18,500 crowd on a gloriously sunny afternoon in Ballsbridge last Saturday.
It’s the third time they’ve started such a defence poorly; in October 2009 they lost at home to London Irish before ultimately advancing to the semi-finals while a year ago Jonny Sexton rescued a draw in Montpelier with the last kick of the game en route to triumph No 3.
At least on Saturday the champions opened with a win but serious improvement is needed, particularly in attack before they head to Wales on Saturday to take on the Llanelli Scarlets (KO 1:35 pm).
It required a 73rd minute penalty goal by Sexton and a last kick-of-the-game long range miss by Exeter replacement out half Ignacio Mieres to secure the victory in a game where the Leinster defence was strong, not allowing the visitors any sight of the try line.
It was a good first weekend for Irish teams with only Munster failing to win but the two-time winners at least had the consolation of picking up a losing bonus point in Paris on Saturday when they lost 22-17 to Racing Metro at the Stade de France, making victory paramount when they host Edinburgh at lunchtime in Thomond Park on Sunday (KO 12:45 pm).
In-form Ulster got off to the best possible start when Ruan Pienaar scampered home in injury time for the bonus point try as last year’s beaten finalists beat French visitors 41-17.
Connacht won away from home for the first time on Saturday when their visit to Italy yielded a 19-10 success.